A vaccine developed to prevent tuberculosis may also prevent multiple sclerosis, an Italian study has found.
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Vaccine affects MS damage
Neurologist Daniel Ontaneda, MD, did not take part in the study but treats multiple sclerosis patients at Cleveland Clinic.
“The rationale is that you give a vaccination which typically protects you against an infection like tuberculosis to MS patients. We believe that it affects the immune system,” says Dr. Ontaneda.
“We think that the vaccine shunts the immune system away from producing damage in MS, to focusing more on the antigens in the vaccine,” he says.
Brain lesions reduced
Researchers at Sapienza University in Rome studied the effects of the tuberculosis vaccine called Bacille Calmette-Guerin, or BCG.
They split 73 people, who had a first episode that was suggestive of MS, into two groups. Thirty-three of them got the vaccine.
Results show that after six months, those who received the vaccine had fewer brain lesions that are signs of MS.
By the end of the study, 58 percent of the vaccinated people had not developed MS, compared to 30 percent of those who did not get the vaccine.
Advantages of vaccine therapy
Dr. Ontaneda points out other potential advantages of the BCG vaccine in treating MS:
- Relatively low-cost
- Single injection
- No significant side-effects
Dr. Ontaneda agrees with researchers who say the results are promising, but more studies are needed.